Jason Botchford: The Canucks absorb some body blows during draft weekend

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden.
 

Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, Vancouver Sun

BUFFALO, NY — It could have been a fine draft weekend for the Canucks, if not for the gut punches.

There were several, some unforeseen and others self-inflicted.

The Canucks paid a steep price for their incredibly frustrating trade deadline, when they couldn’t turn players on expiring contracts into draft picks.

It meant they had two picks in the first four rounds which looked outrageous for a rebuilding team with a former scout as a general manager.

The Canucks should be loath to let this ever happen again, at least until they’re a Cup contender again, a point Vancouver GM Jim Benning seemed to agree with when he declared his adoration of draft picks once again.

“I’d love to have more picks,” Benning said twice. “We had to give up some picks to try and make our team competitive this year, like the (Erik) Gudbranson trade.

“Going forward, I want to be like some of these other teams, with lots of picks where you can trade up and down. That’s the fun of the draft.”

Fun is one thing the Canucks didn’t have a lot of in Buffalo.

It started with the league threatening to slap Benning’s wrists for inappropriate comments the executive made. Before the window opened to talk to free agents, Benning publicly admitted he was going to call Steven Stamkos’s agent. It seems this violated NHL by-laws.

He also revealed he had trade talks with Montreal about PK Subban, which set off Habs GM Marc Bergevin, who put Benning on blast.

“He crossed the line,” Bergevin told The Province. “I don’t know where the line was crossed but he definitely crossed the line.”

It was Bergevin who complained to the league even though it was the Canadiens who generated all the Subban talk in the first place. 

It’s just the kind of weekend it was for the Canucks.

Benning ended up in the public relations shredder and now the Canucks are likely going to be fined. The league is expected to drop their punishment Monday.

“I talked with (the NHL) and (the league) realized they were rather innocent comments,” Canucks President Trevor Linden said. “But in an attempt to be candid and honest he probably crossed the line somewhat.”

The next body blow was missing out on Pierre-Luc Dubois, and this one hurt. Badly.

Thing is, if you had told the Canucks in January they were getting defenceman Olli Juolevi, they would have been fist bumping for hours.

But this was a team which ended the season with the NHL’s third worst record. Expectations for the type of player they’d get at the draft changed dramatically.

Even after losing the draft lottery, Vancouver had hoped that standout forward Dubois would drop to them at No. 5. He’s a player Benning viewed as a future first line centre. He has elite potential and coudl have been a game changer for the organization.

It nearly happened, too. The Oilers were reportedly set to take a Russian defenceman at No. 4. But the John Tortorella’s Blue Jackets shocked the world by passing on one of the so-called Big Three, Jesse Puljujarvi, with the third pick, taking Dubois instead and pulling the rug out from under Benning and the Canucks.

The Canucks claim they saw it coming. Kind of.

“I said to (Benning) a month and a half ago that I think Columbus may take Dubois,” Linden said. “That’s the way it goes.”

Thing is, the 210-pound Dubois would have had a chance to make an impact on the Canucks this fall.

But Juolevi is at least a year away, probably two, from having a legitimate shot at being an NHL regular.

Don’t get this twisted. Juolevi is a really good prospect and was a good pick. He’s just not Dubois. 

jbotchford@postmedia.com

twitter.com/botchford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden.
 

Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, Vancouver Sun

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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